TEXT prose


Susan Presto


Death of the author



The deceased, let’s call him, slept naked that night on his side, snoring, his body curled around pillows. The sheets sloped crazily onto the floor and his bare arse hung slightly over the edge of the bed. The insect was full of eggs and staggered around the periphery of the bed until it brushed against his skin. The deceased farted and shifted slightly. The bug was presented with a warm, foetid, fertile hole and proceeded into the darkness. The deceased flinched and scratched at his arse then rolled onto his back and began to snore again.

The bug sat comfortably in the warm moist space. As the babies emerged from the eggs over the next few days, they did not suffer from a lack of nutrition or moisture. They swiftly grew fat and healthy in the rich environment in which they had hatched. Within a matter of hours after cracking out of their eggs, the baby bugs learned to walk and use their suckers. Within days they were navigating the passageways of their home and finding other sources of nutrition. They were growing fast and always eating and shitting. After a few days of making a mess, they would simply move to another part of the intricate passageways that constituted this home. The tunnels seemed endless, a new clean fresh environment was literally just around the corner.

The deceased did not shit for a week after that first night of colonisation. He was always on the go and he drank a lot of wine. On the eighth day, he finally shat a watery greenish liquid. It was a Saturday morning. He did not look in the toilet to see the green slop and the wriggling larvae. He went back to bed and stayed there all day, drinking from the large warm Coke bottle he kept beside the bed. Every few hours he got up to have a cigarette and lean out of his bedroom window. When he slept there was a lot of coming and going in the bug world. After the loss of lives that day, the bugs knew something needed to change if their colony was to survive in this environment.

Every night the deceased would take all his clothes off and sleep naked. This meant the bugs could then easily leave and find mates outside the immediate family. Although things weren’t perfect in the deceased, there really wasn’t another home anywhere close by that was so fertile and plentiful. Even though there were casualties from time to time, it was still a very successful breeding ground.

In a short period of time, some of the bugs became quite large and found their way up into the bowel. Although a few younger bugs had died when they first arrived there because their shells weren’t tough enough for the harsh environment, they began to toughen the older they got. As each new generation of bug was born, they evolved and adapted to this new space and were born with tougher shells.

This new home was a wonderful source of an ever-wider variety of nutrition than before. More and more babies were hatched every day and the community was fairly content. Unfortunately, some of the bugs got so large that they were crushed leaving their home on forays outside as the deceased began to scratch at his arse. Eventually only the younger, slimmer bugs ever left and they would only leave in search of mates. They would almost always come back again before they got too big to navigate the entrance to their home safely. It was the best local source of nutrition for their babies.

Over time, the entrance to their home became less hazardous. The sphincter loosened as the bugs worked their magic and the fluid that began to trickle from the arse was a wonderful source of nutrition for the newly hatched. Eggs were deposited all around the entrance which slowly but surely widened over time to accommodate the growth of the colony. Soon even this new space was not enough. As the colony grew, the inhibition of the deceased’s normal body function was another downside. Just in time, the bugs found the large intestine because the ulcers the bugs’ faeces created in the bowl had began to poison the system.

The deceased never knew what changed. One day he had trouble getting out of bed and the next he practically leapt out in eagerness to start the day. Just when he reached the point of deciding he really had to see a doctor and actually making a doctor’s appointment, he woke refreshed and invigorated. I must have been depressed, he said out loud to himself. He picked up the cigarette packet and put it back down again, with a puzzled smile.

The bugs quickly moved all their eggs and breeding systems into the wonderful moist fertile cavern. The stomach juices were the perfect foil to the hard egg casings and defecation that had previously caused ulceration in the bowel and colon. The stomach juices broke down the egg shells and the protein became absorbed into a system that had previously been weakened by the infections from the ulcers. The deceased and the bugs began to work symbiotically. The bugs simply had to wait until the stomach acids processed the foods to a certain level which was individual to the bugs at different stages of their life cycle. The deceased could eat and drink whatever he felt like whenever he felt like it, and the bugs turned it into the essential nutrients that his body needed. As bugs died, they were absorbed by the stomach and reused by the deceased as energy.
Since arriving in his stomach cavity, the bugs and the deceased fed each other better than they had ever been fed before. The bugs bred stronger and more active progeny and the deceased woke every morning and leapt out of bed. His skin took on a more translucent quality yet was tougher and harder. He wondered if he was seeing better, but put that down to fancy.

Sometimes the deceased would have guests in his bed. This worked well as the bugs could hide en masse easily within the folds of the sheets until such time as the guest would be sleeping or otherwise preoccupied. The bugs had evolved a saliva with an anaesthetic nature which allowed for lots of extra activities including new host entry for bigger egg-laden bugs. Time could be short on those sheets some nights, so this new ability allowed for quicker, more effective transition from host to host. Attempts were made at other entry points, however all entries through facial passages were hampered by the complex web of nerve endings that would alert the host, even with anaesthetic saliva. There were many deaths along the way until it became obvious that there really was only one way to enter a new home. Once entry was made, however, success was assured and another colony began. Now that the bugs knew how to live in harmony with their hosts, they could begin to populate many new locations. And they did.

One night the deceased left the window open and fell deeply asleep, on his own. He’d had a busy week. Since his new lease of life, he hadn’t been spending many nights alone, and he’d been given many new responsibilities at work. Not much sleeping had occurred in the last week so he slept deeply and there was no one there to wake him when the air temperature dropped below freezing. The deceased woke the next day sneezing and coughing. He rose from his bed less energetic than he had the previous few months. He struggled out of bed to close the window and collapsed back again with a strong hacking cough. The bugs barely noticed the change until no fresh supplies arrived that day or the next. In the end, this was why they were ultimately all so vulnerable.

Once in the doctor’s office, the deceased described his symptoms. The doctor listened closely. When inspecting the deceased’s body, the doctor paused at the sight and feel of the abdomen area and again around the genitals, however only for a moment. He spent a long time looking very closely at areas of skin. He positively glowed with good health in every other respect. The doctor would say so on record.

After the physical inspection, the doctor asked a lot of questions about the deceased’s diet. The doctor made brief notations on the computer and clicked a button on the keyboard. This punched out a prescription for antibiotics. It was discussed that the deceased take the antibiotics first, then return to be reassessed. As the door closed behind the deceased, the doctor clicked once on the keyboard and a website with videos of dancing cats filled the screen.

That night the deceased sat down with the new box of drugs. He read the tiny instructions printed on the big box and took two pills for the first dose, as recommended. He also did not open the wine bottle, as recommended. He sat soberly on his lounge and flicked the remote to make the television come to life.

That night the deceased fell asleep on the couch in front of the television. A few hours later he woke sobbing and holding his stomach. He made a scrambling series of leaps towards the bathroom but never made it fully before a volcano erupted from his anus. The pressure of the eruption blew his pyjama bottoms down to his knees which tripped him up and caused him to smack his head on the door jamb. The deceased collapsed to the floor and wrapped one arm around his midriff with his knees to his chest, the other hand to the gash on his forehead. He passed out, and that is how he was found.

When the two pills entered the deceased’s digestive tract and met with liquid, they began to dissolve and trickle down to the stomach. The bugs died on contact with juices generated by the pills. As they disintegrated, their tiny bodies emitted a caustic gas which bubbled and peeled the stomach lining. Some saw what was happening and began evacuation of the queen and the pupae. So many bugs with pupa and eggs on board trying to exit was ultimately the reason for the blockage. Death came upon all except the very few who managed to escape before the stampede. The gases created by the disintegration of the colony, mingled with the juices from the double pill dose, caused the massacre which ultimately killed everybody. As the deceased died quietly on the floor between his bathroom and his lounge he mumbled of shining futures, of great ideas, of flight into fame and publication, with wings which had now been stolen.

The room was white except where the shadows made it blue. The usual group gathered around the high stainless table and took their places, tools in hand. The first slice made them all step back and gasp. The scalpel cut easily through the sternum and down through the stomach cavity to enable the two sides to be prised apart. Something’s dead in here! Everybody laughed loudly, stepping away from the corpse in front of them and waving their latex-protected hands in front of their noses. A doctor with a flashlight and tweezers then stepped towards the deceased. He pulled the mask down over his mouth and nose from where it had been sitting on top of his head, and secured it firmly. Looking closely at the open cavity, he shone the light up and down and poked inside with the tweezers. Smells acidic, he said.Another doctor stepped up to the deceased and peered in. Looks like some sort of chemical has been ingested which caused this acidic reaction and basically burned out the stomach cavity. That would be enough to cause death. The doctor stroked his chin slowly for a few seconds, then took off his latex gloves with a snap and slipped his hands into the pockets of his crisp white lab coat. Stitch it back up and I’ll sign the report. Everyone nodded, except the person making notes on a clipboard, and stepped towards the deceased to attend to tubing or stitching or mopping. The person with the clipboard coughed and cleared their throat. Don't you want to take a sample to determine exactly what sort of chemical was ingested before closing the cavity? The doctor pushed the mask back to the top of his balding head. I know what sort of lifestyle the deceased led, so I can make a very educated guess that it was not something prescribed by a physician we would find if we were to waste any more money and precious time on this corpse. A few of those in attendence on the deceased paused, but only a few, and just momentarily.



Susan Presto is a PhD student at Griffith University and an English teacher at a boys’ high school on the Gold Coast in Queensland.


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Vol 22 No 1 April 2018
General Editor: Nigel Krauth. Editors: Julienne van Loon & Ross Watkins
Creative works editor: Anthony Lawrence